Tag-Archive for » Holland America Eurodam «

New Ship No. 1 — Viking Sea

First in a series of new ships for 2016

Ship-SeaThe first new ship of 2016 will set sail the first week of April and the category it falls into is “A tough act to follow.” If the Viking Sea is, in fact, a clone of last year’s Viking Star then it will be a winner out of the gate. The Star was ship-of-the-year in the eyes of most experts and it will be interesting to see if they feel the same way about another Viking ocean ship now that they’ve seen one.

Launch date: April 4

Capacity: 930

Sister ships: Viking Star

Maiden voyage: Istanbul to Venice (9 days)

Home port: None

Ships then in Viking Ocean fleet: 2

Interesting: Like its predecessor, the Sea will be more about ports than sea days, visiting some places where bigger ships don’t fit. Despite that, Viking trumpets its “unique onboard experience” — generally larger rooms (270 square feet) that all have verandahs, two pools including an infinity pool looking out to sea, a Nordic-style spa and books and speakers to enrich your knowledge while sitting in “tasteful, understated elegance.” Like the Star, it’s expected to deliver a high level of all-inclusiveness from Wi-Fi to cappuccinos to shore excursions (one) in every port to wine and spirits with meals. This Sea is designed to be a Star.

In the news…

• Port Everglades breaks single-day record by 120 with 53,485 passengers
• Two new, big Costa ships heading for Asian market for 2019 and 2020
• Holland America, Carnival lead inspections — six ships perfect in 2015

Today at portsandbows.comCarnival Corporation’s big ship order

Holland America Eurodam
14 nights
March 27, 2016
Fort Lauderdale, Funchal, Cadiz, Malaga, Cartagena, Barcelona
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49

Thanksgiving: Time To Make A Deal

AllureIf you’re wondering what became of Turkey Thursday, well, it was long ago gobbled up by Black Friday. Four or five centuries ago, it was the holiday with a singular purpose: to give thanks, be grateful.

Today is about parades and football games and, most of all, shopping. It is the busiest day of the year in malls and online, so great are the deals. Black Friday even exists in Canada, where Thanksgiving was celebrated six weeks ago, as it always is on the first Monday of October.

Did somebody say deals? Nothing attracts a crowd of cruisers faster than a bargain. Most of them are on ships from the mainstream cruise lines, which have the capacity to make a big deal about big deals, such as…

Carnival will take you on a 6-night Caribbean cruise for less than $50 per day if you book it tomorrow. Wait until Saturday and it jumps to $65 per day.

Princess is calling it the biggest sale of the year, up to $300 off the cruise and $300 off airfare, per person. In fact, it’s such a “big deal” that Princess is just starting it on Black Friday and keeping it alive until December 8.

DivinaMSC, trying to get established in the Caribbean with its newest ship (the Divina), kicks off a Black Friday sale today with 7-night cruises for just over $50 per day.

You won’t get on a Royal Caribbean ship for that price but you will get on Allure of the Seas, for just over $100 a day…and that is a deal.

Norwegian’s offer is complex. Book a cruise 30 days or more in advance and pick one of four offers: 250 minutes of Wi-Fi, a specialty dining package, a beverage package or $50 off shore excursions in every port. A week-long promotion, it ends Monday.

Even in jolly ol’ England, which celebrates this type of thing with a September harvest, Black Friday is taking root — its most famous cruise line, Cunard, has a weekend offer called “The Ultimate Upgrade.”

It used to be that the ultimate upgrade was cranberries on the turkey, and whipped cream the pumpkin pie!

In the news…

• No more overnights in Istanbul for Celebrity Reflection, Equinox
• Five P&O Australia ships in Sydney Harbor to celebrate the latest two
• Celebrity expands culinary enrichment program to include Cuban dishes

Today at portsandbows.comFavourite river port getting crowded

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
January 3, 2016
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Key West
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64

Friday File: Smile, You're On Cruise Camera!

Among the many benefits of seeing parts of the world from cruising is the happy people you encounter along the way. In North America, photo subjects are often reluctant to smile for the camera — in some cases, permission is requested or demanded. In many countries outside our continent, the smiles come readily from all walks of life, and often you can see from the pictures if they’re genuine, as they usually are…


Brenda Purcell, who takes tourists on her little tour bus in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.


In Dominican Republic, a man happy to be making the biggest cigars we’ve ever seen.


It must be the cigars…this man in the basement of Nassau’s Graycliff Hotel.


Margarita, not the drink but a hostess in Santiago’s Veramonte Winery tasting room.


Once he was known as Captain Stubing…now in his 80s, he’s Gavin MacLeod of California.


Owners of a Mom and Pop restaurant in Huatulco, near the Mexico-Guatemala border.

A vendor named Rose in Belize City, happy to pose for shoppers who weren’t shopping.


Nobody we’ve met has a bigger smile or bigger heart than Sandy Cuadrado in Cartagena.

In the news…

• Security concerns cancel Celebrity Reflection's port call at Istanbul
• Carnival Pride going back to Tampa to operate 5-to-14-day cruises
• Canadian Port of Saint John to deepen harbor and extend window for ships

Today at portsandbows.com: Regent Seven Seas world tour big hit

Holland America Eurodam
7 nights
November 15, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, Philipsburg, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $519
Cost per day: $74

Barcelona's Beauty…And Beyond

BARCELONA, Spain — Right off the top, there are two observations about visiting this Spanish jewel that has been home to  Antoni Gaudi, the Olympic Games, Pablo Picasso and 5.5 million current residents. 

One, you can never be here often enough to tire of Las Ramblas. This is good news for Costa Cruises, among others with ships stopping here. 

Two, there’s more to Catalonia than Barcelona.

Like Sitges and its coastline (above).

Costa’s new flagship, the Diadema, stops by Barcelona to pick up and drop off 3,710 passengers (or so) once every week. The first stop on shore for Diadema’s passengers was RamblasLas Ramblas, the dated and charming part of the city that is a huge magnet for both tourists and locals. In another city, it might be called “Old Town” but Las Ramblas has a nicer sound, at least in English.

You can’t really tell where it begins and ends, only that it does, somewhere on the periphery of the tapas bars, narrow cobblestone streets, great shops, better restaurant and fascinating historical edifices that seem to stand on most corners. You can spend a day there and come back a couple of times, as we have, and spend another day.

And never regret it.

The Las Ramblas area started as a street called La Rambla (the avenue), which of course is still there somewhere in the maze. Virtually every city tour, including Costa’s, includes it along with the Olympic Stadium, another tourism staple. That status also applies to La BarcelonaSagrada Familia. If you haven’t heard of it, you’ve never been to Barcelona, where it reigns as the monument more than any other when they come to Spain. It’s also the world’s largest unfinished church (or smallest), and has been for generations. Antoni Gaudi designed it and gave up building it after 43 years when he was killed by a train.

That was in 1926. Gaudi was 74 when he died and left his handprints all over Barcelona’s buildings. The church’s unfinished state was further devastated by the Spanish Civil War, when arsonists destroyed Gaudi’s studio but not his dream. Its latest scheduled completion date is the centenary of Gaudi’s death, 2026, but nobody’s betting on it. Of the 18 bell towers he designed, eight have been built.

Barcelona’s former bull ring (the sport is banned in Catalonia) is now a shopping mall. The Olympic Stadium, built in 1929 for the World’s Fair and refurbished for the Olympics of 1992, is on Montjuic Hillside, which overlooks this fascinating city and which is now basically a track and field facility that also hosts live concerts.

And then there’s “outside” Barcelona.

Maria NadinaOur second waterfront resort (we’d been at Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa on the same area seven years ago) is a half-hour outside the city, and was chosen by the Costa delegation. It was in Sitges (the “g” is soft), or a short walk from Sitges, a lovely artistic town that is sometimes called the Saint-Tropez of Spain. Our hotel — the impressive four-star Hotel Estela Barcelona — was 20 minutes from Sitges as the pedometer goes so we spent close to an hour of the short time (five or six hours) we had there walking the seawall, having arrived too late to visit the museum recommended by a friend in Barcelona, Maria Nadina (right), who is a tour guide par excellence.

The rest of our time was invested in walking through another tight collection ofarchitecture, returning to the hotel and dining at one of the restaurants on the boardwalk Sitgesnearby, Les Fonts. It’s divided by the boardwalk so there’s constant traffic back and forth,  and the most demonstrative (in a nice way) waitress you’re likely to find.

Barcelona cornersSitges is as laid-back as Barcelona is bustling. The contrast is welcome after a busy day in the big city where, incidentally, street corners (or many of them) are not 90 degrees but cut to 45 degrees. That’s to facilitate traffic flow by making more space at intersections, giving it a Parisian look (or maybe Paris has a Barcelonian look). 

In our two previous visits, this is one of the things we never knew. Like we said, you can never make too many trips to Barcelona.

Or Sitges.

In the news…

• Violence cancels Puerto Vallarta stoips for two cruise lines
• Dead whale dragged ashore by cruise ship in Vancouver
• Oceania lowers fares for West Coast cruises this summer

Today at portsandbows.com: Viking Star off to be christened



Holland America Eurodam
12 nights
June 13, 2015
Copenhagen (return): Kiel, Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin
Inside: $899
Cost per day: $74

Malt Shop Music On The Eurodam

News item: There’s a theme cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam next year called the Malt Shop Memories Cruise.

On our first date, which must be close to 100 years ago, we went to a malt shop…okay, it was called The Chocolate Shop…same thing. But how many of us remember malt shops? Jukeboxes and sodas and counter service and banana cream pie…

It’s probably appropriate the cruise is on a Holland America ship, for demographic reasons. Given the diminishing number of people who know what a malt shop is (or was), it’s definitely appropriate that the cruise is sooner as opposed to later.

Neil SedakaBen E. KingNot just because of the audience's age, either.

One of the scheduled performers on the Eurodam is Neil Sedaka (left). He’s 75. Plus Chubby Checker, who’s 73. Also Sonny Turner (75), one of the lead singers for one of the groups claiming to be The Platters. And Bobby Rydell (72), Little Anthony (73), Lou Christie (71), Frankie Avalon (74), Ben E. King (76, right), Darlene Love (“He’s A Rebel”), who’s old enough (76) to have Toni Braxton play her in a bio pic now in production for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

We’ve seen some of these “old-time” acts in a variety of venues (and, yes, on PBS). We enjoyed Little Anthony and The Imperials at a street show when he was a mere child of 67. Frankie Valli at 70 wowed us at a Las Vegas hotel. As recently as this week, Darlene Love was preparing for her 29th appearance on Letterman and cutting a new album to be released in time for her tour next year!

The cruise is set for November 1, 2015. It’s a 7-day trip from Fort Lauderdale (return) to Eurodamthe southern Caribbean with stops in the Bahamas, Aruba and Curacao. Details can be found at maltshopmemories.com.

For the most part, performing is like riding a bicycle for these “old folks.” They always know how. Maybe the wheels are a little slower, and the notes not quite as high, but who better to play “them” than the originals?

In another time, they would have been playing lawn bowling, not cruise ships. They’d be thrilled to shoot their age on the golf course but most of them are too busy still performing…for music lovers who remember malt shops.

Tomorrow: Some entertainers we've enjoyed on cruise ships

Today at portsandbows.com: What's happened to Caribbean cruises

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
January 17, 2015
Houston (return): CozumelBelizeRoatan
Inside: $269
Cost per day: $38

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